Skinhead arrested in Canada slaying

Chicago Tribune/July 16, 2002
By Barry Brown

Toronto -- Canadian police late Monday arrested a 20-year-old skinhead accused in the killing of an Orthodox Jewish man who had stopped on the side of a road to fix his son's car.

Christopher McBride was arrested at a home in Toronto's west end after an intensive search. Police detained Mercedes Asante, 19, described as McBride's girlfriend, and several others at the home.

Police chief Julian Fantino said McBride, who is charged with first-degree murder, may face other charges. Asante and the others have not been charged.

Following the attack early Sunday, Fantino said authorities were looking at the possibility that the slaying in a quiet, largely Jewish neighborhood was a "hate-motivated crime."

The incident was condemned as a racist attack by community, political and religious leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

But at a news conference Monday afternoon, police Staff Sgt. Bob Clarke said that while authorities couldn't rule out race as a factor, they lacked evidence to label Toronto's 16th homicide of 2002 a hate crime.

Toronto's Jewish leaders expressed hope that the death of David Rosenzweig, 49, does not turn out to be the first hate-related murder of a Jew in Canada, where displays of anti-Semitism-- threats, vandalism and firebombings of synagogues in several cities--have been on the rise.

"Toronto has never had a hate-motivated murder of Jews. No, not in Canada," said Keith Landy, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "This is the first such [potential] incident; that's why it's such a shocking event."

Kent Roach, a criminal law professor at the University of Toronto, said the only known race-motivated murder in Canada was the killing of a caretaker at a Sikh Temple in Vancouver in 1998 by neo-Nazi skinheads. The five men in that case were sentenced to 12 to 15 years each.

Len Rudner, spokesman for the Ontario region of the Canadian Jewish Congress, described a "growing sense of shock" among Jews in Toronto because "this is not happening halfway across the world. This is happening on our streets."

Early Sunday, Rosenzweig had gone to help one of his sons whose car had been disabled in a minor collision.

The auto accident occurred on Bathurst Street, in the heart of the city's Orthodox Jewish community, a neighborhood of Jewish parochial schools, kosher pizzerias and Nazi Holocaust survivors including Rosenzweig's parents. Rosenzweig, like many in the area, was dressed in traditional Orthodox garb--skullcap, black clothes and a beard.

Landy said witnesses told him they heard a young man shout "He's a rabbi," before someone stabbed Rosenzweig in the back with a 12-inch blade, severing his aorta and killing him almost instantly.

Even if Rosenzweig's murder were determined to be a hate-motivated killing, Roach said, it would not affect the charges against McBride. A first-degree murder charge is the same, regardless of motivation.

Police spokesman Clarke said the suspect and two friends appeared to be looking to buy drugs, though the neighborhood is not known as that type of area. On Saturday night, the group was unsuccessful in their efforts to buy drugs and went to the King David, a late-night kosher pizzeria, searching for someone, Clarke said.

Witnesses at the King David said the group was argumentative and hostile, but not openly anti-Jewish.

When they left the restaurant, Rosenzweig and his son were across the street.

Minutes later, Rosenzweig was stabbed to death.

As members of the Orthodox community gathered on Bathurst Street to place memorial candles and flowers, there was a feeling of uncertainty.

"It's murder, and a tragedy like all murders. He left behind six children, a mother. It's devastating that this could happen in the middle of Bathurst Street," said Yoseph Zaltzman of the area's Russian Jewish Community Center.

Chretien's statement called Rosenzweig's killing a "brutal and senseless murder."

"We will not allow anti-Semitism or religious and ethnic intolerance in Canada." he said.

An estimated 1,500 people attended Rosenzweig's funeral at a synagogue Monday in Toronto.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.